Work Disability in Small Firms Work Disability dissertation

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Work Disability in Small Firms

Work Disability Thesis Proposal

Is There a Problem? What is the Contribution?

Livermore, Whalen, Prenovitz, Aggarwal and Bardos (2011) explain how the connection between disability, work productivity and income benefits the whole society by reducing reliance on tax-funded support programs (p. 1). All of us have an interest in ensuring the most productivity from all workers, if stable employment for workers with disabilities frees up resources for other public or private endeavors, and turning tax consumers into tax payers will help reduce the burden for those who now pay. Given public perceptions of funding constraints and increased challenges to public services posed by an aging population majority, ensuring stable employment for everyone especially workers with disability grows more rather than less urgent over time. Even at current levels, Livermore et al. (2011) assert, "it is especially important for policymakers to have access to a wide variety of high-quality data on people with disabilities in order to better understand the needs of this population, assess how existing programs and policies are performing, and plan for the future" (p. 1).

Nonetheless, while many agencies collect data on disability and employment, "existing national disability-related survey and administrative data are limited in their ability to meet the needs of federal programs and policymakers," explain Livermore, Whalen, Prenovitz, Aggarwal and Bardos (2011, p. 1). Constraints include inconsistency between definitions and metrics for disability; weakness explaining program and service implementation, mismatch between existing administrative data and "very limited longitudinal information" (Livermore, Whalen, Prenovitz, Aggarwal and Bardos, 2011, p. 1.) among other opportunities for improvement. "The only large-scale national disability survey data collection effort ever conducted for the U.S. general population," they explain (ibid.) was the 1994-97 National Health Interview Survey on Disability, which was useful then and as a future baseline but demographic and economic conditions have changed enough to justify new research even were the data this dissertation aims for available, which they seem not to be, although that is attempting to prove the negative as yet rather than a conclusive demonstration.

Other federal surveys like the American Community Survey, American Housing Survey and Current Population Survey (CPS) use common questions to identify various types of disability (Livermore, Whalen, Prenovitz, Aggarwal & Bardos, 2011, p. 4.). The U.S. Department of Labor is implementing a new supplement that will improve the depth and breadth of the CPS information, but the CPS data is sampled nationally and does not break out particular regions. The surveys that do reveal information about local populations apparently do not identify differences in employer size. This is important because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not cover businesses with fewer than 15 employees, the ADA 'undue hardship' clause exempts employers from providing unreasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.), and an expense for accommodation would be relatively more for small firms than for large firms with more financial resources. The result is that existing data lack characteristics that would help improve employment support and program performance supporting work for a population who Tremblay, Porter, Smith and Weathers (2011) explain earned enough in 2009 to graduate off Social Security Disability Insurance at a growth rate of one half of one percent per year (p. 19). ADA notwithstanding, workers with disabilities have markedly higher rates of unemployment than non-disabled workers with equal education levels (U.S. Department of Labor, 2011, n.p.). Julie Hotchkiss (2002) found that despite full implementation of ADA beginning 1992, unemployment for workers with disabilities increased since then (p. 1) and that part-time employment has increased for workers with disabilities not because such jobs have become more qualitatively attractive, but because of health coverage policy change (Hotchkiss, 2004, p. 25). While this sounds like improvement compared to no employment, "[p]art-time employment is often associated with jobs that have lower pay, fewer benefits, and less stability," Hotchkiss (2004) explained (p. 25), describing many confounds that distort comparisons of data from studies over time (Hotchkiss, 2002).

Proposed Methods

This study will thus provide real, recent, qualitative information on employment for workers with disability local to the Atlanta region, that will contribute to nationwide, regional and state efforts to increase employment for such workers to parity with the total population. If ADA prohibits employment discrimination (Title I) and employing workers with disabilities who receive health coverage reduces tax transfers, then successful and sustainable placement provides a triple dividend of increasing national productivity, improving self-sufficiency for vulnerable populations and increasing public resources available for other programs. If, as Kukla and Bond (2012) have suggested, perceptions of self-efficacy, engagement and interest in qualitative aspects of work predict tenure and other employment outcomes (p. 11), and if higher unemployment indicates lost productivity from job search, hiring costs and foregone wages and output for workers and employers alike, then determining how employed workers with disabilities rate working for different types of firms, can improve performance for public employment programs, workers and the employers that hire them all at once. Since firms with less than 15 employees are not beholden to ADA (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.), then identifying workers with disabilities in these small firms should provide useful insight toward increased employment all around. This study will query employed workers with disabilities from all types of firms, compare worker characteristics in small and large firms, and by disability status with the general population they work beside.

In order to reduce preparation cost, this survey will borrow questions from prior studies that have already been tested for face and content validity, as many already-field-tested models exist. This will deliver the added benefit of external validity for comparison with matching precedent. The survey instrument will be relatively short compared to many, in order to encourage participation by employers, and allow qualitative focus considering returns of interest within a reasonable scope of report. The length of the survey could provide a potential confound where larger employers view more time as costing more if they allow workers to fill out the survey at their job sites, for example, and large and small employers will be asked to encourage the research through such participation, in exchange for acknowledgement in the published dissertation. Therefore also, the survey instrument must be convincingly anonymous in order to reduce fear of potential reprisal for less than favorable indications of productivity or job satisfaction. One way to reduce this potential fear of reprisal would be to anonymize the instrument through any number of Internet-based research applications, but that would limit inquiry to workers with access to the Internet and so a paper instrument will be deployed but without asking for specific, traceable information. In order to further triangulate workers with and without disabilities in all firms, especially self-employed workers with disabilities, the survey instrument will be deployed in contact with the general public, at several different public locations where reasonable expectations of demographic heterogeneity seem plausible, determined by juried review of a list of a dozen locations. The last side of the triangle will be closed by interviewing individuals with self-disclosed disabilities through local advocacy and support networks like non-profit and public employment support and placement agencies.

Research questions of interest then attempt to identify worker productivity and job satisfaction through either binary yes-no or open-ended continuous variables, which will allow for means comparison using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), Pearson's product-moment correlation, t-tests and also nonparametric tests like ?-squared in case answer classes result in frequencies less than five for example, or results end up out of normal for any number of various possible reasons (although the central limit theorem indicates a large enough sample size should approach normal the more data points are sampled, including potential challenges to perfect random sampling where no compulsion to participate is available). In order to ensure robustness, enough samples must be obtained from workers with and without disability, and if workers with disability are a minority, then those without should surface more in samples of the population at large. Therefore survey will continue until 100 workers with disabilities return completed instruments, which should return an even higher number of non-work-disabled results and if not the minimum number for both classes will be set at 100. On the same type of rationale, larger firms may end up providing more employment across the general population, so the survey will continue until 100 workers indicate "small firms" as place of employment but in case that logic fails the threshold for results will be set at 100 for large and small alike. Since the study is interested in job productivity and satisfaction, only competitively employed individuals will be the target of inquiry and since the survey is anonymous and no test procedure will be performed, human subjects review will either be unnecessary or routine, and the necessary standard disclaimer will provide an opportunity to reinforce the anonymous nature of the research.

Limitations

A major confound undermining many survey-based research claims is selection bias, where researchers impute generalizations from convenience samples without ensuring truly random selection. This…[continue]

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